Sunday, July 13, 2008
By Kevin Thornton
With an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and salads, the summer season is a chef ’s dream. Today, most produce is available year round but, in truth, fruits and vegetables have quite a short season, meaning locally-grown produce is only available for about three weeks of the year.
So, it is extra special when your favourite fruits and veg are in season and can be bought locally. In August, for example, pick up Irish tomatoes and eat them washed, sliced and sprinkled with rock salt, a dash of olive oil and shredded basil leaves.
It is worth trying to shop and eat seasonally. If some foods aren’t in season, there are always plenty of other foods that are. At this time of year, berries such as whitecurrants, blackberries and redcurrants take centre stage. They are all so different in flavour but taste great mixed together, so they are ideal for tarts which can be prepared in advance for Sunday lunch.
I have provided the recipe for vanilla ice cream below, for which you will need to use an ice cream maker. Of course, a good quality vanilla ice cream can be used instead.
Black and whitecurrant tart with vanilla ice cream and redcurrant sauce
Ingredients, serves eight
For the short crust pastry
500g plain flour
3 egg yolks
125g granulated sugar
200g unsalted butter
5g sea salt
1 vanilla pod
1 zest of orange
100ml orange juice
1. Sieve the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, salt and egg yolks.
2. Cut the vanilla pod in half, remove the seeds, chop them and add to the flour. Blanch the orange zest. This removes the acid from the orange peel but keeps its flavour. To do this, cover the zest with water, bring it to the boil, strain it and then add to the mix.
3. Mix in the bowl for a few seconds.
4. Cut the butter into small cubes, soften and add to the mixture. Mix for a minute and add the orange juice a little at a time. The pastry should bind together and come cleanly away from the bowl.
5. Remove, place into a clean bowl and refrigerate for about an hour.
6. Remove the pastry. Butter the tart mould and dust it with flour. Dust the counter top with a bit of flour and roll out the pastry onto this surface. Cover the mould with the pastry and, with your hands, press the pastry into the tart tray.
7. Blind-cook the tart. This can be done by covering the pastry with parchment paper and adding dried marrowfat peas or rice onto it, to put pressure on the pastry to keep it flat while it cooks. Place it into a hot oven at 180C for five minutes.
8. Remove the paper and the rice or dried peas. Put the tart back in the oven for a further couple of minutes to finish cooking. It should be a very light brown colour.
For the pastry cream
250ml of milk
250ml of cream
A drop of still water
1 vanilla pod
125g of icing sugar
165g of plain white flour
3 egg yolks
3 whole eggs
1. Put a drop of water into a stainless-steel pot. Add the milk and cream.
2. Cut the vanilla pod in half and add the seeds to the eggs.
3. Add the pod shells to the liquid and bring to the boil.
4. Put the flour, sugar, eggs and vanilla seeds into a stainless steel bowl and mix well with a whisk until it is forms a smooth paste.
5. When the milk and cream has boiled, pour half of it into the flour and egg mixture. Mix well and pour back into the pot with the liquid.
6. Return to a low heat and stir constantly for about five minutes. Cover with a lid and place the pot over a larger pot filled with simmering water to cook for a further hour, mixing regularly.
7. Remove, place into a clean bowl and cover.
8. The secret to making pastry cream is not to rush it or take short cuts. The flour takes time to cook correctly. It keeps for a few days and can be used with all kinds of pastry filling.
For the vanilla ice cream
10 egg yolks
3 vanilla pods
10ml of still water
125g icing sugar
1. De-seed the vanilla pod and add to the cream with the pods.
2. Line a stainless steel pot with water. Mix the milk and cream together and bring to the boil.
3. Whisk the egg yolks. Add the sugar and whisk well. Pour half the milk and cream into the egg-and-sugar and mix well with a whisk.
4. Pour back into the liquid. Return to a hot hob and bring to 95C using a sugar thermometer. Cook while stirring with a wooden spoon. When the back of the mixture coats the back of the spoon, remove the pot and place it into a sink of ice cold water. This cools the ice cream mix as quickly as possible.
5. When sufficiently cool, spin in an ice cream machine.
6. Remove and place in a sterilised container, then freeze until required.
To assemble the tart you will need
Tablespoon of apricot jam
500ml vanilla ice cream
10g granulated sugar
8 sugared vanilla pods
1. Juice 100g of redcurrants. Add a little sugar and place into a pot on a low heat. Reduce by half, then pass through a fine sieve into a clean, cool container.
2. Glaze the remaining redcurrants by dipping them into egg white and cover with granulated sugar. Leave on a sugared tray over night at room temperature. The sugar glazing protects the berries so they will last for a few days.
3. Cover the pastry base with pastry cream and line the berries on top.
4. Heat the apricot jam and cover the berries with the apricot glaze.
5. Put the tart on the plate and line the plate with the sauce. Place the sugared berries beside the sauce and serve with a few scoops of balled ice cream.
Kevin Thornton is a Michelin-starred chef and owner of Thornton’s Restaurant on St Stephen’s Green in Dublin. www.thorntonsrestaurant.com